Monday, May 31, 2010

Reading the Scriptures FHE Lesson

This is another lesson that I felt inspired to share here.  This lesson is for teaching our families the importance of reading the scriptures regularly.  I feel like when we, as a family, make the efforts that we do to do something as time consuming as reading the scriptures together daily, I want my family to understand why we do it.  I also feel like this lesson is great when we need a little motivation to stay on target.   

Click here to view the index of my other ready-to-print FHE lessons (with a new one published most Mondays). 

Reading the Scriptures FHE Lesson                                                            

PS  For optimal printing performance, it is best to create a free account with and download the PDF file before printing.  As always, feel free to email me at if you are having troubles viewing or printing these lessons.  


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

10 Commandments of Raising Independent and Responsible Children

Lately, I've been growing every more concerned about whether we, as parents, are doing enough to instill a sense of independence and responsibility in our children.  I worry about my older children growing ever closer to adulthood, and whether we've given them enough opportunities to develop responsibility and independence in the safe environment of home.  And I also worry about how easy it is to swoop in and do things for them that they could be doing themselves, just because we're in a hurry...which is always. 

This list encapsulates what I feel is most important in helping kids to develop into happy, responsible individuals.  I'm not perfect at all of them or any of them for that matter, but it is my hope that by writing down my ideas all in one place that it will help me to keep improving. 

1.  Thou shalt let children experience real-life consequences.  Of course, you need to keep your children safe from danger, but whenever possible let them experience natural consequences.  If they don't eat their dinner.  Don't give them extra graham crackers and string cheese an hour later.  Let them be hungry (or if you really can't do that, then offer them a simple, non-exciting snack (like an apple or banana) before bed).  They will certainly not die or faint and they will learn eventually that dinner is the time to eat.

2.  Thou shalt not be a helicopter parent, always hovering over your kids.   Kids need space to try new things.  They may struggle with it at first, especially if they're used to you always hovering over them, but in the end giving them the opportunity to try and succeed (or fail) is far more valuable than your omni-presence. Push them for a few minutes on the swing and walk away and watch from a distance.   Maybe they'll jump off and run to sandbox.  Maybe they'll turn and swing on their belly.  Maybe they'll make a new friend, but in any case how will you ever know if you sit there and push them for half-an-hour straight? 

3.  Thou shalt not jump into save them whenever they struggle.  This is huge. I think as parents we are naturally protective of our children and don't want them to experience failure or embarrassment, but if we jump into save them every time they struggle children inadvertently learn that they are incapable of solving their own problems.  That means that parents shouldn't do their projects for them so they can sleep longer and get a better grade.  Don't run their homework to school for them.  A poor grade or an embarrassing lecture from the teacher is far more educational than them thinking that their half-hearted efforts are good enough for an 'A'. 

4.  Thou shalt take the time to teach them well, then stand back and let them try.   Sometimes I think it's easy for us as parents to just do the simple things for our kids, just because it's easier.   But think of time spent teaching as an investment.  The time we take to teach them to do things right--wiping their own bum, washing their hands, buckling their seatbelts, making their own bed, tying their shoes, pumping a swing, making a budget, etc.--is our future time that we save from not having to do it for them.  As a bonus, kids get the sense of accomplishment and confidence from doing it themselves. 

5.  Thou shalt not underestimate their abilities or second guess them.  As parents, it's way too easy to undermine our efforts in teaching them to be independent and responsible individuals by always second guessing or doubting their decisions.  Do you find yourself criticizing their clothing choices?  Or how long their hair is?  Or which shoes they want to buy?  Or which happy meal they choose?  Let them express their decision and as long as it's not dangerous (or immodest or inappropriate) go with it and don't say a word.  Yes, that may mean they wear an ugly outfit on picture day.  Or have shaggy looking hair for a while.  But when we express our doubts on these unimportant matters we are conveying to them the subconscious message that they're not good enough to make their own decisions, not to mention that we're making it harder for ourselves when, in the future, we do have legitimate input on important decisions. 

6.  Thou shalt create safe opportunities for them to stretch themselves.  This can be as easy as letting your child tie their own shoes in a non-hurried atmosphere or allowing them to tell the waiter what they would like to order at a restaurant.  Or it can be as complex as helping your teen make a budget.  The more practice (and successes) they can experience in a safe, non-stressful environment, the more prepared they will be for real-life experiences.  

7.  Thou shalt not yell or scream when they fail.   You should never make developing a new skill or taking on responsibility a negative experience.  Speak calmly and patiently to them when they are trying out some new skill and while you don't want to save them too quickly, you also don't want to let it escalate into a power struggle. 

8.  Thou shalt let them make decisions on a daily basis.  This can be hard for some parents, but I believe that simple daily decisions from a very early age (like picking their own clothes or which book to read) are so important for them in developing confidence as an independent individual.  That means giving them simple guidelines, like that their clothes be clean and modest, and then keeping your smirks at their crazy mismatched outfits to yourself. 

9.  Thou shalt give them loving encouragement and lend a helping hand when needed.  This isn't the swooping-in-from-the-sidelines-and-saving-them-kind-of-help, but rather about keeping it a positive experience.  If a child is clearly frustrated and failing despite their best efforts, try and turn it back into a positive.  Give them a refresher course on tying their shoe and let them run and play. 

10.   Thou shalt be consistent.  I believe that consistency is one of the most important elements in parenting in general, but especially in teaching kids to be happy, contributing, confident, responsible individuals.  If we only let them tie their own shoe once a week, then hurriedly do it for them the rest of the time, they're not really going to get the satisfaction of it being "their own thing".  We need to be patient with them (at all ages) while they're learning and then consistently expect them to do great things!


Some ideas for things you can let your kids do themselves when developmentally appropriate:
(remember instructing them properly is vital for increasing their chance at successes)

Toddlers:  Wiping themselves, washing hands, simple chores, putting on their own shoes, dressing themselves (actually putting on their own clothes), letting them decide what to eat for breakfast, lunch, or snack, clearing their own dishes from the table after a meal
Preschoolers:  Getting their own drinks, pouring milk on their cereal, buckling up their own seatbelts, tying their shoes, zipping and buttoning their own clothes, making bed, folding towels and blankets, simple chores around the house, watering plants, let them tell the waiter what their order is (I have my kids do this from the time they can speak clearly (usually around age 4).  It's a safe way for them to start learning to interact with people outside the family)
School-Age:  keeping track of their own homework, checking the mail, preparing their own lunches, chores, making bed, teaching FHE lessons, cooking either treats or part of a meal, helping with a younger child, feeding a pet, weeding, letting them walk to the bus stop themselves (when old enough), ordering their own food at a restaurant
Teens:  managing their own money, keeping track of homework, more responsible chores, planning and teaching a FHE lesson, helping take care of younger child (babysitting), planning and making meals, laundry, heavy yard work like mowing and trimming, part-time jobs, letting them solve their own problems whenever possible


Monday, May 24, 2010

Love Your Enemies FHE Lesson

As I go through my lessons to determine which one I should digitize next, I have often felt led to one lesson or another.   Sometimes because it's a topic that I need to review myself.  Sometimes it's a lesson I need to teach my kids again.   And then there are weeks like this, where I know unmistakably which lesson I'm supposed to share and I don't really know why.

It's a difficult topic to teach and an even more difficult principle to apply in our lives.  The lesson is based on the Savior and his example and I hope it is as meaningful to someone else out there as it was for me to go through and review it.  

Click here to view the index of my other ready-to-print FHE lessons (with a new one published most Mondays). 

Love Your Enemies FHE Lesson

PS  For optimal printing performance, it is best to create a free account with and download the PDF file before printing.  As always, feel free to email me at if you are having troubles viewing or printing these lessons.  I will send you them as PDF files.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Temples FHE Lesson

 This is one of the first FHE lessons I ever created for an exchange group.  I was intimidated by the topic, but knew it was something that I wanted my kids to understand the importance of.  This lesson is geared for helping our families to understand the great work that happens in temples and also to gain appreciation for the blessings we receive there.

Included in the lesson are this temple mobile about the blessings of the temple and a temple bingo game geared for helping kids to learn how they can prepare now to go to the temple someday.    Of course, I feel like the best way to teach kids about the importance of temple blessings is by example.  If we, as parents, make attending the temple a priority in our lives, then our kids will never doubt what it means to us.   I hope you enjoy this lesson as we have.

Click here to view the index of my other ready-to-print FHE lessons (with a new one published most Mondays). 

Temples FHE Lesson                                                            

PS  For optimal printing performance, it is best to create a free account with and download the PDF file before printing.  As always, feel free to email me at if you are having troubles viewing or printing these lessons.  I will send you them as PDF files.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blog Books: Up Close and Personal

Ever since I started this blog in April 2007, people have been asking me when I'm going to print my blog posts into a book.   I knew that eventually I'd like to do it, especially since it took me approximately 3 days of blogging before it completely replaced my time spent scrapbooking.  Unfortunately, by the time I started researching the prospect seriously I had over 600 posts. 

The main company I kept hearing about was Blurb.  So sometime last year I downloaded their software and got to work creating my books.  It didn't take long before I realized I had a very big problem.  When uploading my pictures to the internet I always significantly reduced the size to make them easier to load.  Although they looked fine online, not a single one of them was good enough quality to print.  Suddenly I was faced with the overwhelmingly monumental task of hand replacing every single one of my photos with the higher quality version from my computer.  In other words, I was going to get it done in about 57 years.  

I dabbled with it here and there and tried to make headway on it, but  it wasn't going anywhere fast.  Now fast forward to 2010 and  I have over 1000 posts and still no book.  Then I heard from my friend Andrea about Blog2Print.  At first I thought it would be another big waste of time, but when she mentioned it only took her about 20 minutes to complete her book I was completely intrigued.  20 minute projects are just about perfect for my attention span! 

I got off to a rocky start getting my blog downloaded and had to call the company (where a real person answered the first time), but after a 5-minute phone call my blog was downloaded and I was ready to make my books.   

The hardest part about the whole process was making a few decisions (outlined below), but shockingly it really did only take about 20 minutes.  

 Here's a glimpse of our first two books along with some of the choices you'll have when you order:

There were several unique cover styles to choose from, so I just picked a different one for each book.   

Soft covers were slightly cheaper, but we viewed these as a family history type of investment so we chose the hard covers.   The binding and page quality are both excellent. 
 The pictures are a little on the small side, but I was so thrilled not to have to replace them all with higher quality pictures that I couldn't care less!  

 Because of the way I blog using pictures, I wanted the entries to be laid out as they were on the blog.  My friend Andrea chose the scrapbook style layout which grouped the pictures and words in a more space saving manner, but I did not feel that that style would have worked well with most of my posts. 

Although they added numerous pages onto the length of our books, we really wanted the comments to be a part of the books.  We felt that they added a lot of personality to each post and that it wouldn't have captured the essence of our blog as well without them. 


In summary, we are thrilled with our new family yearbooks and would highly recommend them to anyone! 

In case you're shopping around, here's what I deem to be the pros and cons of working with Blog2Print over working with Blurb (although I have to disclose I never actually ordered a Blurb book, since I could never get past the planning stages). 

Pros of Blog2Print
  • Super quick and easy to put together (totally finished a book with a whole year of posts in 20-30 minutes)
  • Good quality books
  • Didn't have to switch all my photos out for higher quality versions
  • Choice to include comments or not
  • Choice to leave out individual posts
  • The choice to make your posts as short as possible (scrapbook style) or to keep them as they're written (in relation to the placement of the photos)
  • Excellent customer service (via phone or live chat)

Cons of Blog2Print vs Blurb
  •  No ability to tweak individual posts (like changing out the picture or correcting a typo)
  • The layout on every page is the same (however you've determined you want it)
  • Cost (I actually don't really know how this compares to Blurb, since I never ordered from them, but I did feel like my books were a little pricey ~400 pages for ~$110 or so and I couldn't find an online coupon anywhere.  Really, though, it was WELL worth the price just for the time I saved!)
  • Photos rather small


Friday, May 14, 2010

FHE Lesson Index

This is a collection of ready-to-print FHE lessons that is the result of me digitizing our family's favorite week at a time.

My lessons are often 10+ pages long, but the visuals are in full color and BIG and many of the lessons can be split to cover two or more weeks (or with different focuses). Many of them also include great object lessons that could be used for teaching primary or sharing times.

Most of these lessons are ones that I've used for several years with my family and are adjustable for the changing ages and attention spans of kids. I hope others come to love and enjoy them as we have.

Click HERE FOR A GUIDE on how to use these lessons most effectively.

(In Alphabetical Order) New lessons added on most Mondays.

Zipping Your Lips Against Profanity and Bad Language

For best results, download the PDF file from Scribd (a free account is required) before printing. As always, if you have any issues with downloading or just have a question or comment or even a topic request please feel free to contact me at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Teaching Kids About Sex From a Gospel Perspective (FHE Lesson)

First off, I have to say that I firmly believe that teaching kids about sex is not a one time deal.  In this sex saturated day and age, we need to have an open line of communication with our children, so that they are not afraid to come to us when they have questions.   This lesson, in my opinion, is a conversation starter.  It's a way to teach the basics from a positive, gospel perspective and to let our kids know that we're not afraid to talk about a sensitive subject.  

This lesson was one I received in a FHE exchange group several years ago.  I was totally amazed that someone would tackle such a weighty topic, but I've been forever grateful that she did.  It has been such an excellent resource for our family and it's by far my most lent out lesson. 

First thing you need to do (after you print out the lesson) is order this book from Amazon (or check it out from the library):

The Wonderful Way That Babies Are Made
(If you store your lessons in manila envelopes like I do, I love that this book is perfectly sized to slip right inside.  That means it's out of sight from the kids and is always easily accessed when we need it.)
This book teaches about sex from a Christian (but non-LDS) perspective and is filled with beautiful illustrations.  My favorite part about this particular book is that there are two levels to it:  On each page you'll find larger print with text geared towards younger children (under 8), while the smaller text is more detailed and thorough information meant for older kids (8+).  

The lesson outline provides the background and the gospel perspective on sex while the book is where the details of sex will be shared.

Also included in the lesson are guidelines for determining proper timing of discussions and a recommend resource page for books and articles.  

Click here for an index of my other ready-to-print FHE lessons (with more every Monday). 

PS  For optimal printing performance, it is best to create a free account with and download the PDF file before printing.  As always, feel free to email me at if you are having troubles viewing or printing these lessons.  I am happy to send them to you as PDF files. 

Teaching Kids About Sex FHE Lesson PDF                                                            

Here's a link to another great resource from my friend Jocelyn over at We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ with a very cute printable booklet on the subject! 


Monday, May 3, 2010

Holy Ghost FHE Lesson

 I love the paper plate demonstration and the flashlight/puppet activity in this lesson. Both of these activities have made deep impressions on the kids and made the lesson fun and memorable too.  I hope you enjoy it too!

Click here for my other ready-to-print FHE lessons (with more every Monday). 

PS  For optimal printing performance, it is best to create a free account with and download the PDF file before printing.  As always, feel free to email me at if you are having troubles viewing or printing these lessons.  I will send you them as PDF files.

Holy Ghost FHE Lesson                                                            


More Mothering Philosophy

So now you know some of the ways I've learned to cut out the non-important/stressful elements of motherhood, here is the low down on what I consider to be some of the essential elements of building stronger family relationships.  While each of them in and of themselves may seem small or unimportant, I cling to this quote from Elder Bednar in General Conference last year, about how it's the diligent and consistent efforts of sticking with those little things that add up to the creation of an "impressive masterpiece".  

"Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes."  (Elder David A Bednar, Ensign, Nov. 2009)

(in no particular order)
1. Family dinners.  Dinner doesn't need to be fancy (a bowl of cereal will do), but there's something about the simple gathering around the table that does more for reconnecting than a thousand special outings.  With kids on four different school schedules, it's often the only time of the day where we are all (or mostly all) gathered in one location all day.  I hear them joking with each other, telling about their days, and in general, enjoying being together.   It's honestly one of my favorite times of the day.  
(Apparently I don't take pictures of us at the dinner table very often, since this one of us at a restaurant was the only one I could find. )

2. Family Home Evenings.  Anyone who's been reading my blog for long knows that I am a family home evening lover.  I feel so strongly that I never want my kids to wonder how I feel about the gospel.  While it's not always easy finding a time that we can all meet together, I love that I get a weekly opportunity to bear my testimony to them.  With my kids now 5-15 years old, our lessons have had to evolve over the years, but I find us covering the same topics year after year, the gospel basics.  We use lots of pictures and object lessons for the younger  kids and in-depth discussions on real life applications for the older kids. 

3. Getting to know the kids' teachers (and classmates).  This one is hard when you're in the midst of taking care of babies and toddlers, but even a small effort will pay off.    I really like seeing the teacher's interactions with the kids.  I like seeing how my own child interacts with the other kids.  I like seeing which kids my child seems to be friends with and which kids I would like them to foster friendships with.  In addition, field trips are also a great way to connect with other parents, that you may otherwise rarely see.   I also rather like the loud exclamations of, "Adam's Mom! Adam's Mom!" whenever their classmates see me.  :)

 (Here is one of the most recent field trips that I chaperoned--a science conference at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum.  They all wore their lab coats and presented power point presentations on their science project.   I guess I'll be taking power point lessons from my third grader now. )

4. Reading to your kids every day.  I, for one, love reading time as much for the snuggling as I do for literary benefits.  I read to my kids as long as they'll let me and I cherish that time with them.

(I love this picture of my dad reading to Ellie and Andrew)

5. Waking up before your kids.  In years past I've  woke up about the same time as the kids and found that I often didn't get my own needs taken care of (like a shower or a good breakfast), because I was so frantic getting them ready.   Since Spencer has begun early morning seminary and Cami has started middle school, I am forced to be up before the little ones (long before them), and I am surprised at how much smoother my days go now.  It's worth it to get up before them, even if it's only 15-20 minutes.

6. Taking walks with your kids.  Not only is it good exercise, but I really feel like getting away from the distractions of the house is therapeutic for them and me.  I invariably hear far more details about their days and funny stories that I don't know that I would've heard otherwise.  I love it.  I also love how, as we saunter slowly around the neighborhood, they take notice of the beauty in the world around them--the birds, the squirrels, the flowers, the clouds. 

7. Family prayers.  We're at the stage of life that we end up saying several family prayers each morning and night, so that no one gets missed.  I feel like this simple exercise of being quiet and turning our hearts to God for a few moments every day, is one of the most powerful things we can do to teach our children what the gospel means to us.

8. Hold your babies and snuggle with toddlers as long as possible.  I can't believe that I'm past those years of my life now, but I am a big advocate for holding your babies as much as humanly possible. While of course there are times you have to set them down, but I feel like the hours spent holding and snuggling them instead of putting them in the bouncy seat or swing is time you'll never regret.  I know it's cliche, but it's a true cliche; chores and projects can wait, but babies don't wait to grow.  Hold 'em, snuggle 'em, love ''s worth it.
 (Ellie gets a little jealous when I hold other babies.)

9.  Moderation & Balance.  I tend to be someone who tackles things 150% when something captures my interest.  While my interests are not bad or anything, I have to be careful not to let it take over.  Moderation in my own pursuits.  Moderation in kids' pursuits.  It's not easy finding the right balance, but making an effort to keep your life in balance--physically, spiritually, emotionally--is something that helps the pieces to fit together better. 

10. Light-heartedness.  I am one who tends to take myself too seriously, so it is with effort that I have to strive not to be too serious with the kids, especially the older ones.   Of course there are times to be serious, but do they really need a 10 minute lecture about how they're supposed to clear their dishes from the table?  I notice that the more I put aside the lectures and try to keep a smile on my face while we talk, the more they listen.  Being able to laugh at myself certainly is helpful with having  teenagers too. 
(Don't ask.)

 PS  All this philosophizing is kind of tiring.  Beware of bubbling goofiness starting to brew. :)